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Photo of Raspberries Ready to be picked
Berries of the Forest

If you have ever met someone who makes their own jams and jellies, you know that they guard the location of their berry patches like they would a buried treasure. Luckily, if you like to make jam or you just like to eat fresh berries, there is no better place to find them than in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Blueberries are one of the most abundant berries to be found in the U.P. They need well drained soil in order to grow and the sandy soils lining the Blueberries plump and juicyshores of Lake Superior and Lake Michigan are great for this. So is the glacial till left behind thousands of years ago by retreating glaciers. Blueberries also do well in bogs were where the remains of dead plants form nutrient-rich but acidic soil. Wild blueberries are smaller than the ones you can buy at the grocery store, but they are much sweeter.

A Blackberry picker shows her the fruits of her labor and her stained fingersBlackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and wild strawberries were part of the staple foods of Ojibwe Native Americans who lived in the Upper Great Lakes area before European settlers arrived. During the spring and summer when the berries were abundant, they ate them fresh. They also preserved them in two different ways so that they could be saved for winter too. In one method, the Ojibwe wove mats from strips of pine bark and laid the berries in the sun until the moisture dried them out. They also made berry bakes by mixing the berries with maple syrup. They poured the mixture onto sheets of birch bark where they were left until dry. The Ojibwe word for raspberry is mis kou min.

To find out more about the berries of the Northwoods, check out the links below: